Thursday, September 17, 2009
If This is What County Government
Has Done For The People Of Westchester, It’s
Time To Do Away With County Government
Last Tuesday morning, September 8th, we attended the third in a series of hearings at the County Legislators’ Committee Conference Room at the County Office Building dealing with the federal government’s ultimatum to Westchester to promulgate and finally comply with the rules and actions needed to bring about affordable, fair housing.
Regardless of the show that Susan Tolchin, Deputy County Executive, continues to stage, ably assisted by attorney Stuart Gerson of Epstein, Becker & Greene, there is no denying that Andy Spano, and his partner in crime, Larry Schwartz, have gotten Westchester taxpayers in over their heads by their reckless, incompetent misappropriation of nearly $52 million, and their deceptive accounting of its use.
Last week we suggested that Spano had let down both the legislators and taxpayers. We still believe that. However, following a discussion with Chairman Bill Ryan just prior to the start of Tuesday’s proceedings, we now believe that the legislature is every bit as culpable as Spano & Company for the predicament homeowners and taxpayers are now confronted with. When asked how it was that he and his fellow
Board Members had not retained their own attorney, Chairman Ryan indicated that he didn’t believe that the Board of Legislators needed separate legal counsel.
When we raised the issue of Separation Of Powers between the Executive and Legislative branches in County Government, Ryan saw no conflict in relying upon the legal advice of County Attorney, Charlene Indelicato, who was employed at the pleasure of the County Executive, and Stuart Gerson, outside counsel also retained by Spano, to whom Gerson expressed his “loyalty” at the first hearing, a notion Ryan quickly took issue with. We do not accept the idea that Bill Ryan could possibly be that naive. If he is trying to suggest that Andy and Larry haven’t misappropriated federal grants and misrepresented to the federal government, the Department Of Housing And Urban Development, what they did with $52 million, he is culpable before, and after, the fact, and should be held just as accountable as Spano,
Schwartz, and Tolchin, together with every other legislator who sits around that conference table never once asking where the $52
In plain English, there is no way that use of the same attorneys who, for more than two years, have worked for Spano & Company in the effort to mitigate and minimize their wrongdoing in negotiations with the Justice Department, HUD, and the Federal Court should now be advising and instructing a supposedly separate and independent body of taxpayer representatives, particularly given that those same taxpayers must now pick up the $65 million tab for all that wrongdoing.
It’s safe to say that the 17-member Legislature, the overwhelming majority of whom were campaign-financed and assisted by Spano from contributions controlled by him and Larry Schwartz, are not all that concerned about the plight of their constituents under the terms of the imposed settlement. Why else would only 12 of them show up on time and others, such as Republican Jim Maisano, miss both the first and third hearings?
Jim Johnson, a former United States Attorney, a federal prosecutor with extensive experience in the area of housing discrimination, was introduced as the appointed monitor, although Chairman Ryan was careful to describe him as “the individual proposed as monitor,” as if the County had
any choice in the matter if the Legislature accepts the settlement.
Then Ryan introduced Rose Noonan, an individual with several years of experience in housing issues in Westchester, dealing with not-for-profits, County government, as well as the City of Yonkers, and instructing at Pace University Law School; in short, someone thoroughly enmeshed
in, and dependant upon, the Westchester network of control for her bread and butter.
At that point, as if to emphasize his allegiance to, and blind obedience to, the Spano Regime, Ryan said, “We have our very own outside counsel who is acting as our consultant in this matter, Stuart Gerson.”
Nothing could be further from the truth given the manner in which this entire housing dilemma was brought into being, under the control and mismanagement of Spano & Company.
To now tell the public, the overtaxed homeowners and business-people who will have to foot the bill, that Stuart Gerson, an attorney who has
been working behind the scenes for more than two years to cover Andy’s backside, that he is the County Legislators’ legal consultant, is to deny
any independent voice, any representation of the Peoples’ interest, on the part of the so-called County Legislature.
In fact, it is a blatant admission that the Board of Legislators is simply a 17-member/50 support staff rubber stamp; and a damned expensive one at that. Readers must not lose sight of the fact that 13 out of 17 of these so-called legislators, individuals pulling down $1,000 a week plus stipends
for a part-time job, are Democrats, all of whom feel beholden to Spano and Schwartz, and, could care less about their constituents’ interests or wishes.
They proved that, unmistakeably, with the purchase of the Halpern white elephant at 450 Saw Mill River Road in Ardsley last year. They established that when Andy says “jump”, they only ask, “how high?”
The moldy old building was a commitment of $13.5 million, to possibly as much as $20 million, before it is repaired and renovated; we will never know for sure. This commitment, if approved, will be for $65 million. Not one of these legislators asks where the money went, or why Spano violated the False Claims Act by lying, yes, lying to HUD and the federal government. They don’t ask because they are culpable themselves.
If ever there was a moment when the citizens of Westchester could clearly see the dysfunction within County government; the failure to have checks and balances, the corruption with money of the Legislative Branch by the Executive, that moment is now!
The Board of Legislators is ready to sell out the People of Westchester. Not one of them apparently comes to the table with clean hands. So committed are they, Republicans included, to covering up all of the wrongdoing and double-dealing that has placed our homeowners and taxpayers
in the fix they are now in, that they are only too ready to sign off on an agreement that will cost their constituents $65 million and place control of the future growth of their communities in federal hands.
If this is what County government has done for the People of Westchester, it is time to do away with County government.